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Prosodic cues to semantic structure in native and nonnative listening

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2003

EVELIEN AKKER
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
ANNE CUTLER
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

Abstract

Listeners efficiently exploit sentence prosody to direct attention to words bearing sentence accent. This effect has been explained as a search for focus, furthering rapid apprehension of semantic structure. A first experiment supported this explanation: English listeners detected phoneme targets in sentences more rapidly when the target-bearing words were in accented position or in focussed position, but the two effects interacted, consistent with the claim that the effects serve a common cause. In a second experiment a similar asymmetry was observed with Dutch listeners and Dutch sentences. In a third and a fourth experiment, proficient Dutch users of English heard English sentences; here, however, the two effects did not interact. The results suggest that less efficient mapping of prosody to semantics may be one way in which nonnative listening fails to equal native listening.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Cambridge University Press 2003

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Footnotes

This research was carried out by the first author under supervision of the second author as a final year project for the Department of English, University of Groningen. We are grateful to Alice ter Meulen for advice on the project, and we further thank James McQueen and Erwin Marsi for making the recordings, Antje Meyer for making it possible to conduct Experiment 1 at the University of Birmingham, Marieke Kolkman for testing the subjects of Experiments 2 and 3, Delphine Dahan, James McQueen and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript, and Tau van Dijck and Anne Pier Salverda for practical help and advice. The first author is now at the Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information, University of Nijmegen (e.akker@nici.kun.nl).
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Prosodic cues to semantic structure in native and nonnative listening
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